Google is bringing some changes to its Developer Program Policy that will restrict the use of high-risk or sensitive permissions, including the access to the list of apps installed on an Android device, by any app.
In simpler words, no app will be allowed to access the installed app inventory on an Android device until it is necessary for it to undertake its core user-facing functionality. Google says that if a developer’s app does not meet the requirements for acceptable use, they must remove it from the app’s manifest to comply with new policy.
As per a post by Google on its Play Console Help support page, the changes in the Developer Program Policy will come into effect on May 5. The company says that this is done because Google Play regards “the device inventory of installed apps queried from a user’s device as personal and sensitive information.”
This can be seen as another step towards strengthening measures for user privacy. For example, this mandatory change will make it harder for apps to spy on what apps are installed on your phone. The access to app inventory in an Android device can be used for targeted advertisements or for malicious purposes.
As mentioned, if a developer’s app does not meet the requirements for acceptable use of app inventory, they must remove it from the app’s manifest. In case the app meets the policy requirements for acceptable use of the app inventory, they are required to declare the high-risk permissions using the Declaration Form in the Play Console.
If apps fail to meet policy requirements or developers do not submit a Declaration Form, the app may be removed from Google Play. The declaration must be revised and updated with accurate information in case there are changes in order to comply with the policy changes. It should be noted that inventory access permission only takes effect when an app targets Android API level 30 or later on devices running Android 11 or later.